Reference Research Review: 2005

An Annual Bibliography highlighting selected works in the literature

Items selected and annotated by members of the American Library Association, RUSA/RRS Research & Statistics Committee (2005-2006): Sarah J. Hammill, Chair (Florida International Univ.), Janelle M. Hedstrom (Univ. of Texas, Austin), Anne C. Moore (Univ. of Massachusetts), Holly L. McCullough (Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh), Rebecca Pressman (Rutgers), Carolyn Radcliff (Kent State), Ellen Safley (University of Texas at Dallas), John S. Spencer (Gonzaga)

1) "The Design and Interpretation of Unobtrusive Evaluations." Andrew Hubbertz. (Summer 2005) Reference & User Services Quarterly 44(4), 327-35.
Reviews and critiques unobtrusive studies of reference service. Raises important questions about the design, implementation, and interpretation of such studies.

2) "A New Visual Communication Concern for Librarianship: Messages Articulated through Reference Web Photographs." Terrance S. Newell. (Fall 2005) Reference & User Services Quarterly 45(1), 54-64.
Examined 150 photographs of interactions between reference staff and patrons to determine messages conveyed. Found that most photos depicted professional power, knowledge equality, activity equality, far personal distance, and medium levels of warmth.

3) "If I Ask, Will They Answer?: Evaluating Public Library Reference Service to Gay and Lesbian Youth." Ann Curry. (Fall 2005) Reference & User Services Quarterly 45(1), 65-75.
Unobtrusive study that used one proxy patron to ask a gay-themed reference question at 20 public libraries. The proxy used an observation checklist based on the RUSA Guidelines for Reference Behavior to record responses and reactions of librarians.

4) "Trying to Help without Getting in Their Faces: Public Library Staff Descriptions of Providing Consumer Health Information." C. Brandi Borman and Pamela J. McKenzie. (Winter 2005) Reference & User Services Quarterly 45(2), 133-46.
A qualitative study in the form of discourse analysis of the stories reference staff members tell about patron interactions. Offers recommendations for staff handling potentially sensitive health questions.

5) "Public Library Responses to a Consumer Health Inquiry in a Public Health Crisis: The SARS Experience in Ontario." Roma Harris, C. Nadine Wathen, and Donna Chan. (Winter 2005) Reference & User Services Quarterly 45(2), 147-54.
Conducted an unobtrusive study of 69 libraries by having a proxy seek information about SARS. The authors review perspectives on the role of the public library and encourage discussion of expectations for the provision of health information.

6) "Assessing the True Nature of Information Transactions at a Suburban Library." Rhonda S. Boyd (July/August 2005) Public Libraries 44 (5), 234-40.
A qualitative survey of reference transactions over a two week period in a Georgia public library system was used to determine correct levels of reference staff, resources, and training needed to satisfy user needs. (Survey instrument included?????)

7) "Evaluating the quality of a chat service." J. Arnold and N. Kaske. (2005). portal: Libraries and the Academy, 5(2), 177-93.
This quantitative analysis of chat sessions indicated that 92% of questions were answered accurately as opposed to the 55% traditionally quoted in unobtrusive studies of reference desk response quality. Transcript analysis also indicated chat reference responses were of consistently high quality.

8) "Information literacy: Bringing a Renaissance to Reference." G. Burke, C.A. Germain, & L. Xu. (2005). portal: Libraries and the Academy, 5(3), 353-370.
Study indicates students will ask for assistance from reference staff after exposure to information literacy concepts in mandatory and elective IL courses. The authors found significant increases in self-reported reference desk use both during and after the courses.

9) "An Investigation of Career and Job Satisfaction in Relation to Personality Traits of Information Professionals." J. M. Williamson, A.E. Pemberton, and J. W. Lounsbury. (2005) Library Quarterly, 75(2), 122-141.
Through a questionnaire distributed to over 1,300 information professionals through listservs and a library conference, the researchers discovered that personality characteristics of librarians significantly correlate with job and career satisfaction.

10) "Why Users Choose Chat: A Survey of Behavior and Motivations." David Ward. (2005) Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 10 (1), 29-36.
Chat reference patrons were surveyed to determine what they were doing before they chose chat, why they chose chat, and their overall satisfaction with the service. (Survey instrument included.)

11) "What's Coming Off the Shelves? A Reference Use Study Analyzing Print Reference Sources Used in a University Library." Jane T. Bradford (2005) The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 31(6), 546-58.
The author examined the use of a print reference collection at a small private university. The finding showed that less than 10% of the collection was used during 2 two-month periods in 2003 and 2004. Although currency might be a major factor in use of a title, many older items were used more than was expected.

12) "Reference Service in the Digital Age: An Analysis of Sources Used to Answer Reference Questions." Jane T. Bradford, Barbara Costello and Robert Lenholt. (2005) The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 31(3), 263-272.
After recording the resources used to answer questions during 2002 and 2003, research showed a small number of print resources were used, and the majority of questions were answered using a bibliographic database, an internal webpage, or a librarian.

13) "Reference Service to International Students: A Field Stimulation Research Study." Ann Curry and Deborah Copeman. (2005) The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 31(5), 409-20.
The study investigates the quality of reference service experienced by international students in British Columbia. One MLIS student who spoke in heavily accented English and who was a visible minority asked the same reference question two times at 11 different academic libraries.

14) "Quantifying Cooperation: Collaborative Digital Reference Service in the Large Academic Library." Sandra DeGroote, Josephine Dorsch, Scott Collard and Carol Scherrer. (2005) College and Research Libraries 66(5), 436-54.
After librarians centralized their digital reference service into one contact point for all customers, a study showed the need for additional resources to assist customers of the digital service including FAQ pages or more prominent pathways to commonly requested information.

15) "Assessing the Impact of Reference Services Provided to Undergraduate Students." JoAnn Jacoby and Nancy O’Brien. (2005) College and Research Libraries 66(4), 324-40.
The authors surveyed undergraduates receiving non-directional reference assistance and found that undergraduate learning was a plus as well as the impact of librarian friendliness.

16) "Information-Seeking Behavior for Recreational Activities and its Implications for Libraries." Dougles Ernest, Allison Level and Michael Culbertson. (2005) Reference Services Review 33(1), 88-103.
For information on recreational activities the public consults a variety of sources including the Internet and libraries. Provided that libraries have electronic access to information, they continue to represent a potential source for online users.

17) "Library Participation in Campus Web Portals: An Initial Survey." Bruce Stoffel and Jim Cunningham. (2005) Reference Services Review 33(2), 144-61.
The authors investigated the extent and nature of library involvement in campus Web site development. A majority of respondents had at least one library feature on their campus portal and collaboration between campus and library staff was a common theme.

18) "Online Pathfinders: Toward an Experience-centered Model." William Hemming. (2005) Reference Services Review 33(1), 66-87.
In evaluating the pathfinder approach to library instruction, the author found that it misses the multi-dimensional picture of the user and the user’s experience of the information service. An experience-centered model for online research guide design is proposed.

19) "Visibility as a Factor in Library Selection of Ready Reference Web Resources." Steven Sowards. (2005) Reference Services Review 33(2), 161-73.
In determining the most popular entries on library ready reference Web sites, the author asserts that early publicity for Web tools was an important element in their relative popularity as choices for Web sites.

20) "Was this Guide Helpful? Users’ Perceptions of Subject Guides." Martin Courtois, Martha Higgins and Aditya Kapur. (2005) Reference Services Review 33(2), 188-97.
After examining methods used to evaluate guides, the authors report the results of an online survey placed on each of more than 80 web-based guides from the library at George Washington University.

21) "The Role of Effective Intervention in Promoting the Value of Electronic Information Services in the Learning Process." Alison Pickard. (2005) Performance Measurement and Metrics 6(3), 172-82.
A three-year longitudinal study of the impact of information services on a group of undergraduates. Authors recommend ways to improve library information services in the student learning process.

22) "Does the Student’s Love of the Search Engine Mean That High Quality Online Academic Resources Are Being Missed?" Margaret Markland. 2005) Performance Measurement and Metrics 6(1), 19-31.
A study comparing search results between Google and subject-based information gateways. Author offers suggestions for improving the use and relevancy of subject gateways